HomeHealthy LifeThe Best Dietary Supplements According to a Nutritionist Good + good
The Best Dietary Supplements According to a Nutritionist Good + good
July 31, 2022
IIf you get the feeling that the vitamins and supplements section at the drugstore is constantly expanding, don’t imagine it. The global market for dietary supplements is expected to grow by 9 percent between 2021 and 2028 and be worth a whopping $128 billion. With so many options to choose from (fish oil! omega-3s! vitamin A!) it’s getting harder and harder to be a discerning consumer. Are those green horse pills squatted by your friendly neighborhood influencer actually life-changing? Do you really need to supplement all the B vitamins?
While supplement labels can trick you into buying them with big promises like “stress relief” and “better sleep,” it’s important to be skeptical and do some preliminary research to see if a particular ingredient actually delivers on those promises. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve vitamins and dietary supplements; it simply inspects manufacturing practices and intervenes when a particular dietary supplement becomes a public health concern. So some companies make dubious claims and get away with it. A recent consumer survey found that 46 percent of dietary supplements fall short of their high promises.
Basically, it pays to be a skeptical Susan as you walk down the supplement aisle at the drugstore. But to make things a a little easier, we spoke to registered nutritionist and supplement researcher Anne Danahy, RDN, founder of Craving Something Healthy, and Kelly LeVeque, CN, a holistic nutritionist and best-selling author, to share which supplements to add to your shopping cart — and how to determine whether a product is actually right for you.
3 questions to ask yourself when considering supplementation
1. Could I get this vitamin from my diet instead of taking a supplement?
Nutritionists are a big fan of telling you to eat your vitamins, and Danahy is no exception. “[Everyone] should consider whether there are gaps in their diet that can be filled with food before turning to supplements,” says Danahy. Fiber, antioxidants, etc. All of these work synergistically in your body, so always start with a balanced diet.” Basically, most people should try to increase their intake of certain foods before resorting to a pill to make up the difference.
However, certain people may have difficulty meeting their needs through diet alone, whether because of a medical condition (such as celiac disease) or their particular diet. Vegans, for example, have more limited sources of brain-boosting B12 since it’s most commonly found in animal-based foods. In such cases, supplementation can be incredibly helpful in filling nutritional gaps. Pregnant women should also take a folic acid supplement and other prenatal vitamins to support their baby’s development and reduce the risk of birth defects.
2. What sparks your interest in this particular supplement?
You may have heard that 5-HTP can help calm you down if you are mainly Stress or that melatonin can support a good night’s sleep. While there’s often some evidence to support these touted benefits, it’s important that you address lifestyle factors that may also contribute to these issues, says Danahy. For example, if work keeps you busy 24/7, before reaching for a supplement, can you try stress management strategies like exercise, meditation, gardening, or reading? If the answer is no, that’s totally fine — but the question is worth asking.
3. What can my family history tell me about which supplements may benefit me?
“Even if someone is in good health, I would recommend assessing their risk for certain health conditions based on their lifestyle or family history,” says Danahy. “For example, someone with a family history of heart disease and blood pressure that is slowly rising should consider omega-3 fish oil, beetroot powder, or certain antioxidants.”
If this sounds like you, ask your doctor what they think about supplementation based on your personal family history. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation.
The 4 supplements to take according to a nutritionist and a nutritionist
1. Vitamin D
According to Danahy, most people could benefit from vitamin D. “It’s hard to get enough of your diet if you’re not eating lots of salmon, egg yolks, and fortified milk,” she says. “This is also a vitamin that most people are not deficient in, but many people have suboptimal levels.” Vitamin D has many important functions, including helping your body absorb calcium (which is vital for bone health), reducing inflammation, and promoting mental well-being. In other words, it’s damn important — and worth thinking about.
Recommended daily dose: 600-800 IU per day (15-20 mcg).
2. Omega-3 fatty acids
If you’re alive and breathing right now, you’ve probably heard the hype surrounding omega-3 fatty acids. “Omega-3, or fish oil, is another remedy I often recommend for middle-aged individuals. It can help lower blood pressure and triglycerides, but I also like it because it supports cognitive health and has anti-inflammatory effects,” says Danahy. She points out that eating food sources high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, sardines, and oily fish two to three times a week is still a better option than supplementation.
Recommended daily dose: 1.1 grams for women; 1.6 grams for men (for reference, a 2-ounce serving of farmed salmon contains about 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids)
“[Magnesium] It’s involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body, so it supports everything from bones and muscles to glucose and blood pressure to DNA and RNA synthesis,” says Danahy. “You can take it anytime, but some people have found that taking it after dinner helps them relax in the evening.” The mineral is also essential for heart health, as it supports nerve, cell, and nerve health muscles supported. She recommends magnesium glycinate, a form of magnesium that’s a little easier for the body to absorb. (FYI, magnesium is found in foods like spinach, black beans, and almonds.)
Recommended daily dose: 310-360 milligrams per day for women (depending on age and pregnancy) and 400-420 milligrams for men (depending on age).
4. A multivitamin
LeVeque, for example, is a big fan of the multivitamin to cover all your bases. They can be a great way to get a variety of macro and micronutrients without having to pay for individual vitamins.
There is one caveat, though: multivitamins come in many varieties, so you must consult a doctor, nutritionist, or other trusted health professional about which mix is right for you based on factors such as your age, diet, current medications, and if or not you are pregnant. Harvard Health recommends reading the label and choosing one that has your recommended daily allowance of its various vitamins and minerals and has the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) seal of approval on the label (an indication of the purity and potency of a particular vitamin).
Recommended daily dose: Varies depending on the vitamin.
Long story short, dietary supplements aren’t nearly as simple as they seem. So if you have any questions, be sure to ask your family doctor. There’s no point in spending a lot at the drugstore if it doesn’t have a significant impact on your day-to-day health and well-being.